Saturday, September 10, 2011

Charlie and Me.

Have you ever seen that movie Marley and Me?

Well, I have not seen it because that kind of stuff makes me way too sad. I remember bawling my eyes out when I watched the movie Beethoven.

Have you ever read Where the Red Fern Grows? Well I did in 5th grade and it was the saddest book I had ever read. I remember crying, and crying, and crying so much for the dogs, Big Dan and Little Ann.

I hate sad pet stuff.
I get super emotional when someone loses a best friend.
A dog can bring so much joy to a person, so much comfort.

This week, my mom went into the hospital. Her dog (and my dog) Charlie came to stay with me while she is getting treated. She will probably be in there for a few weeks. Don't worry, mom will be okay, she is working on getting healthy, this is a good thing.

Charlie is a very special pup. I bought him when I was in college after I had broken up with my long-time boyfriend. The two of us had a daschund together, and when we broke up, Ace when with the ex. Charlie helped me when I was feeling lonely.

I soon realized that having a dog would not work for my schedule. I was in college and working and I never got to see him so it was going to be hard to potty train him. Mom became the 'grand-dog-sitter'. Soon, Charlie moved in with mom full time and she fell in love with his company.

Charlie slept with mom every night. At that time, mom lived in a trailer and Charlie would run around like crazy, making laps around the whole place. When mom moved into her new apartment, Charlie went with her. He had a favorite stuffed red bone, that we called his baby. If Charlie was chewing on a raw hide, we knew to stay away because he would growl ferociously if anyone came near it.

Holding Charlie, you could say 'who is my baby dog?' and he would collapse, limp in your arms and let you cradle him like a little baby.

When the tornado hit, Charlie managed to find safety in the apartment. I remember carrying the 20+ pound, wet, scared dog to my house when mom rode in the ambulance to get her foot stitched up.

Over the years, I have tried to help mom with Charlie as much as possible, like she had helped me when I first brought him home. He is loyal to my mom in every way, keeping her company when she is sick and in pain. He is right by her side. Sometimes, the only reason my mom gets out of bed, or off the couch, is to take Charlie out. He is her 'therapy' dog, her best friend.

This week, when I went to pick up Charlie, he wasn't himself.  He has been down in his back and has been in and out of the vet (at an astronomical $2,000 bill in less than a week). His issues are related to a back injury that happened a few years ago. Mom's jumbo fat nurse aid stepped on his back recently, causing a major flare up.  Charlie became incontinent and wheezy from the steroids.

Soon after Charlie came to my house, he took a turn for the worse. He licked a hot spot on his leg. It went from a raw area, to a deep hole, to a big gaping wound in about 24 hours.

Dogs tend to lick hot spots when they get anxious. I am sure not having my mom around, being in a new place and in pain, and being alone during the day for so long made him very anxious. 

After trying a neck cone, bandages, and special spray to keep him from licking, I tried diapers, and bathed him and tried to keep his 'bed' area in the bathroom as clean as possible but his leg became infected.  I could not keep him from licking that spot.

Those doggy diapers did not work. And I've never really been good at changing a baby's diaper, so trying to put a diaper on an lame, obese, incontinent wiener was ridiculous. The diapers this hole in the back, for the was just weird. But it was worth trying.

Poor Charlie looked so pathetic in his neck cone and diaper. It was so sad.

Charlie managed to wriggle out of the diaper pretty quickly meaning that he was just sitting in pee, on the bathroom floor.  It started to become impossible to keep him completely clean for very long. Especially since I leave the house at 6:40 a.m. and don't get home until nearly 4:00 or later, I couldn't keep enough towels clean for his 'bed' on the linoleum.

After realizing that I could not care for Charlie, mom certainly isn't healthy enough to care for him, in such a condition, we agreed that it was time to think about Charlie's quality of life. Specifically, we were keeping Charlie alive because he made us feel better, but the truth was, it was just wrong to make an animal suffer like that.

Charlie wouldn't even lift his head when I went into the bathroom by Friday morning. His leg wound was infected, he hadn't pooped in days and he was depressed and in pain. I made an appointment for him at a local vet for that afternoon. It was all I could do to put on my 'Mrs. Mitchell' act at school. All I could think of was poor Charlie.

I've never had a dog that needed to be put down before.

Saying goodbye to Charlie was incredibly sad.

And not just, like 'oh, hey this is the right thing to do, he is an animal and he is injured and its hard to kill a cute animals'....


More like, 'oh, hey this is someone's best friend, and you have to kill it because it is the right thing to do, and now your mom will be all alone because you couldn't save him and you failed and life isn't fair and you need to hold his paw and look him in the eye because he shouldn't be alone when he dies, he needs you to comfort him, and remember Where the Red Fern Grows?, well this is sadder than that times a million, yeah, it is that sad.'

Looking into his big, sad brown eyes, knowing that in a few minutes, he would go from being Charlie, to being gone, was heartbreaking.

The vet was very kind. She explained the procedure. I tried to comfort Charlie, but when I tried to tell him 'its okay Charlie' as the injection went into the catheter,  my voice came out in a squeaky, choked, whisper sob.

Knowing that my mom did not get to say her last goodby to him, or be there to hold him one last time can imagine how guilty I felt....but I knew I couldn't make him suffer until she gets out....

In one second, he was alive...and then he just wasn't....

At 6:00, I went up to visit mom. I handed her a small stuffed daschund, black with brown paws, and she started crying, big shoulder-heaving tears, holding it up to her cheek. She stared into the little toy's alabaster eyes and whispered 'you are a good baby dog, you are my sweet baby dog, its okay, Charlie, now you don't feel any pain.' 

After a few minutes, I gave her some photos that I had printed for her, and we held each other crying. We told stories about Charlie and we would go from smiling to crying again, realizing how unfair life is and how much he will be missed.

Mom said she wants to go to build-a-bear together, to have something special made that she can snuggle with at night, since she won't have Charlie to curl up beside her anymore.

I had to write this.

I am sorry if it made you sad. It feels like I am reading some sort of super sad book, and I just keep reading the sad part over and over again, making myself cry. But this isn't some sad book, and I can't just put the story down and walk away. It is part of me is my story...and I had to tell it so that I could set it free, move on to the next chapter...the happy one...where I get to take mom to a toy store to build her new best friend, one that will never get sick, that will always comfort her and lay by her side.

Thanks for reading.

Rest In Peace
Charlie Silver Bear
May 29th 2004--September 9th 2011


angela said...

I'm sorry nellie.

Tracy said...

RIP Charlie. I am so sorry to hear about your baby. Pets are really part of the family arent they.

Angie said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. Poor Charlie. Definitely hard to lose a pet.

Maria Ontiveros said...

Such beautiful pictures and such a beautiful tribute. My heart goes out to you. As hard as it is, I know you did the right thing for Charlie. For him, it really is just like going to sleep. For those left behind, it is harder. Hugs to you,

Art Project Girl said...

I'm crying right now because it is so so hard. I am so sorry for you and I remember the pain of having to put down my dog Blue, vividly. You explain it so well. They are here and then they're not. But I think harder is coming home and not hearing the nails clicking on the hard wood and looking in the rear view mirror to see your best friend isn't there. You'll always miss him as I do my Blue. We still talk about him all the time. Some dogs are just amazing! MY HEART GOES OUT TO YOU AND YOUR MOM.